Environment
6:26 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Legislation Introduced to Hold Drilling Companies Responsible for Water Contamination

Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields has accepted that natural gas drilling will likely go on in Pennsylvania, but he is introducing legislation to hold companies responsible for any water contamination they might cause.

Shields said that drilling pollutants can be troublesome when mixed with other chemicals in the region's rivers.

"What's the problem with bad bromides?" Shields said. "Well in and of themselves, they're not going to kill you, however, when they mix with a disinfectant, like chlorine, you're dealing with a giant chemistry set in the river. You never really know what you're going to pull out."

The bromides, mixed with other materials in the water, produce brominated trihalomethanes (or THMs), a compound that has been linked to causing bladder cancer.

He feels that the authority of local governments to implement zoning codes has been infringed upon, because home owners can lease their land to drilling companies. He also cites the lack of public hearings on state legislation regarding drilling. Shields is concerned about the rising cost to train first responders for the types of accidents that can occur at drilling sites, and what he calls the conflict of interest between corporations and local officials.

Shields wishes that the state didn't rush into this industry, identifying Maryland as a state that placed a three-year moratorium on drilling for research on the health and safety impact. He said that more research and knowledge is essential before any drilling project.

"Let's put it this way — how about we figure out what it is first?" Shields said. "That's prime in any kind of exercise when you're regulating or managing an issue, whether you're in the private sector or the public sector."